When I watch a movie with a disabled character, I’m often asked whether or not I thought the actor playing that character should have been disabled. I don’t think it’s a black and white answer. My response to this question is always ‘I believe it depends on the needs of the character and the story. They come first. Ina perfect world would it be better for stories, actors and everyone involved if the disabled characters were played by disabled actors so that the story had more authenticity? Yes, but we’re not there yet.
Bryan Cranston played a quadriplegic. in the movie upside. His casting created an uproar and questions from the disabled community. I believe his casting was purely to get a big name on the cast. That movie could have just as easily cast a truly. paraplegic actor in the Bryan Cranston role and had Cranston play someone else. One television show with a disabled character that I loved was. Glee. The two actually had two disabled characters. Lauren Potter played Becky Jackson a young woman with down syndrome. Both the character and the actress have the birth defect.
However, Kevin McHale who played Artie Abrams a young paraplegics student was not. really in a wheelchair. Having watched this show, I forgive this casting because. there was a scene in the show where Artie had a dream and was able to dance and walk around outside his wheelchair. Yes, this scene could have been cut. However, when creating a character, I think one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is Who is this character? What are the needs of this character? And Yes, When the show premièred, the creators may not have been thinking we want him to be able to walk. Which means they paid no mind to the authenticity of the character. Personally, I think the show would have been better served casting an authentically disabled actor.
Even though those in the disabled community have had trouble being cast, there have been success stories. Ali Stroker is the first person who uses a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway Stage and the first to win a Tony Award. In 2019 she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress In a musical for her performance in Oklahoma. Two of my favorite performances by here were in Christmas Ever After and Only Murders In The Building
One show where I hadn’t realized the disabled character was actually played by a disabled actor was CSI. Robert David Hall who played. Doctor Albert Robbins on CSI has two artificial legs. This was one of my favorite shows. If I’m being honest during the run of the show, I always thought the actor playing the role wasn’t disabled at all. I wrongly assumed the actor was pretending to have the limp and was able-bodied. Even though I believe it goes by a case by case basis I do believe it would be better for actors and storytelling as a whole if more disabled actors were cast in the roles written for them. One suggestion I heard that I loved. was cast a disabled character in the movie and then cast a bigger name in the support ing role to bring people into the theaters. Peanut Butter Falcon did this when they cast Zach Gottsagen in the main role and had Shia LaBouf as a more well-known actor in a supporting role. When you are trying to become an actor its hard enough to get your big break when you have no disabilities. Thankfully inclusion is breaking down those barriers.